I was just going through some old files in my computer, and I came across a letter that I wrote a few years ago to the editor of Scottish Life Magazine. It was written is response to a picture story about a very popular (I love her books!) author that showed her and some members of her family hugging standing stones in Scotland. My feelings about this have not changed, and I feel that the statement bears repeating, so I am posting it here. I have taken out all references to names because I am not certain about copyright issues. This point is not the who, it’s the what:
I have been a devoted fan of the ******* for years (I actually am a member of the Fraser Clan, my birth name being Cowie). I had the pleasure to hear her speak years ago at two separate high teas in Flagstaff, AZ, and again at the library in Cottonwood, AZ… I am halfway through her latest book and am enjoying it as much as I have the others….
I must, however, make a strong objection to the posed photos in the article about her and the **** Tour in the Special Issue of Scottish Life Magazine:
As someone who has had a long standing and close association with ancient and sacred sites in America, especially in the Southwest, and someone who has been (more than once) to all of the very sites in Scotland that you picture with the article…I object to the people in the photos standing so close to the monuments that they are touching them.
It is a very well known rule that one does not actually touch ancient things due to the wear and tear of the body’s acids on the artifact. The fact that you show (her) and other people hugging and standing on them, not only gives permission but invites others to come and do the same thing. What should be sacred and enjoyed from a polite distance will now become a tourist trap and the stones themselves will suffer with the constant touching and rubbing.
This is a travesty and I implore you to make a strong statement to correct it. The people who do the actual tour need to tell people to enjoy what has stood for thousands of years with their eyes, not their hands.
Please don’t let these beautiful and sacred places become corrupted.
Wishing you the best, **
Laird Kyle and I stood at Balnuaran of Clava and watched as parents allowed their children to climb all over the Cairns. His eyes looked out over the top of my head, and as he watched them, he said, “I am glad you brought me up to respect ancient things.”
The land is ancient, and it deserves much more respect than we as a whole civilization give it. There are things that cannot be changed back. Manhattan will never again be the sleepy little island it once was. There are, however, places where we can make a difference.
**I did receive a very thankful and positive response from the Editor, and he promised to talk with the tour operators.